Lesson 1.2 – Assignment 1:3 In response to #6: Write a summary of three significant points that you find most interesting in the final chapter of If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories?
If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground is the title of Chamberlin’s book. This title sets the stage, because the text centres on the power and impact of stories. Stories connect us with our past, with each other, and with universal truths. Story telling is an important skill, because it is how we make connections. This article from Psychology Today is about the power of storytelling. Chamberlin uses stories, both his own and others, to make his point throughout the text – there exists a Them and Us mentality that includes a separateness with clearly established borders. Additionally, he addresses the need for each side to find common ground with the other.
The final chapter of this book goes full circle, and reinforces the point he makes in the first chapter when he writes the “dream of a common culture, celebrating common meanings and values, with ceremonies that confirm a common purpose” is not possible without contraction, because “the real power of ceremony is not in achieving peace… but in embracing contraction” (25). The last chapter supports this message through Chamberlin’s proposal for “ceremonies of belief” that are at their centre, contradictory (239-40). “The notion of contradictory truths” is looking at something from two points of view (221). Things can be both true and not true at the same time, as in “a setting sun” on a flat horizon versus “a round earth” that encircles the sun (221). The way to reconcile these contradictions is through a melding of reality with the imagination. Having the ability to imagine the world though another’s eyes, and see things with a new perception. This too has to do with borders, but it is with breaking down the borders, looking beyond the stories we tell ourselves, and experiencing reality from a new perspective. In the last chapter, “Ceremonies” (219) he writes that through shared ceremonies a common ground can be found. This is possible when both sides come together, and understand each other’s stories through “ceremonies of belief” (222).
Chamberlin suggests the solution ends with land title, and I felt this was the most important point he makes in the book. He proposes changing the “underlying title back to aboriginal title” (229). In doing so, he says that things would stay the same, but yet they would not stay the same, because “[o]ur understanding of the land would change. Our understanding of ourselves would change. Our understanding of aboriginal peoples would change” (231). He writes that this change in land title “would finally provide a constitutional ceremony of belief in the humanity of aboriginal peoples in the Americas” (231). It is a radical, yet interesting proposal that he makes. This solution, if possible to carry out, would address many of the wrongs done to our First Nations communities. It would go a long way in creating common ground for all peoples living in Canada. But before we could begin this process, “we need to find a ceremony that will sanctify the land for everyone who lives on it” (227). We would also need to use imagination, while melding each side’s past, present, and future realities together.
Lastly, he concludes that the common ground necessary to bridge the distance between Them and Us is not something concrete, but instead is a “state of mind” (239). It is understanding that there are many different truths, and just because one is different from another, it does not make it wrong. Instead if each side looked at truth as having “to do with ceremony, not evidence”, this would open up understanding, because there are many different truths, and many different realities (147). Pink Floyd released the song Us and Them as a single on February 4, 1974 in protest of the Vietnam War, and the song is searching for meaning in the futility of conflict. It addresses how people treat each other, both collectively and individually. In many ways this song ties into Chamberlin’s suggestion in the final chapter of this book, where he leads the reader to a reimagining of Them and Us.
Chamberlin, Edward J. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Knopf, 2003. Print
Copeland, Scott. Image 16 of 19. N.D. Print of High Quality Giclee Process. Northwestcoastindianart.net. Web. 20 May 2016.
Pink Floyd. “Us and Them.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Sep 2008. Web. 20 May 2016.
Rutledge, Pamela B. “The Psychological Power of Storytelling”. Psychology Today. 16 Jun 2011. Web. 20 May 2016.